Surrounding one’s self with positive imagery, does not seem human… the world of self-development is toxic in its positivity. That which is meaningful, is often created through struggle. With this, we’ve “Hustle Culture”. Yes, work harder… yes, throw out the limitations of being human in favor for work-work-work. You are no more than your work role in society… no human being with their own sense of identity, or autonomy. Never quit! NEVER QUIT! “It feels good to pretend, doesn’t it?”
And so… we question. Why do we seek ‘self-help’ in the first place? Is it to improve one’s self? What is to be improved? Why do we strive to improve? If one desires to improve, why is happiness tethered to it? Why do we assume improvement equals happiness? What equals happiness? What are your desires?
Say you desire: People to like me more, women to fall at my feet, to be rich, influential… powerful.
Why… ask yourself ‘Why’? Examine the experience of phenomena and culture. Why do we strive for the things we strive? Why do these problems arise in-relation? What defines these as problems as such?
The answer will be mostly likely, due to unhappiness. Dissatisfaction within ones life. Now, wishing to change your circumstance due to suffering is not at all terrible… that is not the purpose of this post. I speak from experience, for I once walked this path in search for satisfying this dissatisfaction. I was under the assumption that my dissatisfaction was bad, and I should feel bad for feeling so. However, what is happiness in-comparison? And is attaining a permanent state of happiness achievable? Are these negative emotions to be discounted? Is a human, still human if they are forever happy? Isn’t misery, and struggle necessary?
Asking questions… and questioning the rhetoric of self-help books leads one to their own personal truth. Not just that, digging deep into your own values.
If there is one thing which has helped me greatly above all else, it is philosophy and virtue ethics.
The funny thing however, is that the format of these works will not give you a shopping list/set out of clear-cut instructions to follow… as self-help books do. Philosophy and virtue ethics, leads one to discuss ‘what a good life is/may be’ and not how to achieve it. The considerations for being good, which is synonymous to being fulfilled and happy.
In all truth, the self-help industry sells hope. Those who are in the state of dissatisfaction, are the hopeful.
Of course, philosophy does not offer all the answers… nothing will. There is no universal truth. No one can, and will tell you the truth. That is entirely up to you. In saying this, this is the path least followed. One of the most difficult things an individual can do. Take responsibility of their own understanding of reality, into their own hands. Self-help has much to do with giving one’s self reassurance, practical advice (platitudes), and establishing personal authority. Philosophy, on the other hand seek to introduce advancement to practical problems for a popular audience. In example: social issues. Philosophy in of itself is a practice of rational inquiry. Self-help authors do not criticize or deconstruct the concepts they present… this explains why we’re fed the same thing over and over again.
Most important of all, do not follow any master. Do not trust any advice given, out rightly. In your pursuit to self-mastery (by Nietzsche’s definition), you owe it to yourself to be skeptical… you owe it to yourself to question.
Also, in Meryl fashion… I would like to say “Fuck you, fake self-help gurus, and the self-help industry. Shove your culture-soaked toxic positivity up your ass! Every single one of you fuckers talk the same, and act the same in your seminars. You’re this century’s snake oil salesmen. Anymore sheen, you’d be blinding airplanes you fake fucks! I say people should all seek their own truth. Not be spoon-fed your snakeoil any longer!” (Note: for comedic effect, people assume the term of curses are well… angered. Not in this case).